GAO Finds States Lag in Child-Welfare Data Collection; despite Heavy Funding, Computerized Tracking Systems Are Not Online
Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Despite spending $2.4 billion over nine years, many states still have not gotten their child-welfare tracking systems online, a government watchdog agency recently concluded in a report to Congress.
"Most states continue to face challenges providing complete, accurate and consistent data" about child abuse and neglect, foster care and adoption, the General Accounting Office said in a report released last week.
Inefficient data tracking puts the 500,000 children in foster care at even greater risk, two congressional leaders said in an Aug. 11 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
"Are there many things more important than coming to the rescue of a vulnerable child before another tragedy occurs?" wrote House Majority Leader Tom Delay, Texas Republican, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.
The lawmakers asked HHS to respond to the GAO report by Sept. 30. They also urged HHS to reconsider its policies about penalizing states with sloppy child-welfare records. HHS had assigned penalties to states, but rescinded them in January 2002, the GAO noted.
The child-welfare system is a sprawling network of courts, state and local agencies, group and foster-care homes, and therapeutic centers, which have the mission of sheltering and protecting children when their families cannot or will not care for them.
While some local systems work well, others routinely make headlines for losing children, assigning them to cruel caretakers, keeping them in the system too long or returning them to abusive families. …